Inside/Out is an exhibition that explores external and internal spaces in relation to the development of the city of Phnom Penh. Five photographers from the SaSa Art Gallery, Lim SokchanLina, Kong Vollak, Khvay Samnang, Heng Ravuth and Chhin Taing Chhea have created a series of images that explore the internal and private spaces of their homes, the people and objects in them. These images are displayed on 25 tuk-tuks (motorbike drawn carriages that function as taxis) that will roam the city for the month of September, exposing these intimate images to the public. The opposite will be done in the gallery, where images of billboards displaying project developments will be displayed. The vision projected by the new developments suggests a rich and luxurious lifestyle, unattainable by most. This reversal serves to stimulate people to consider the contradictions and complex layers of a city emerging from war and moving into “modern life.” As a compliment to the series on new developments, Kong Vollak, an artist renowned for his work and commentary on modern structures, has created an installation in the gallery.
A JavaArts project, conceived by Dana Langlois, with support from Olivia Hague and Ali Sanderson and in collaboration with SaSa Art Gallery.
To ride in a “mobile gallery” call one of the tuk-tuks (see list). The full series of images will be exhibited in October at SaSa Art Gallery, No. 7 Street 360.
Inside/Out is part of Our City 2009, Month of Architecture and Urban Design, Phnom Penh
Our City, is a collective project that provides a platform for the art community to respond to the rapid changes of their urban environment through various mediums: architecture, film, photography, sculpture, dance.
To join the Our City group on Facebook go to http://bit.ly/zzHYJ
Urban Development - Olivia Hague
Development in the city of Phnom Penh is changing the landscape and the structural layout of the city. As well as trying to sustain land value and encourage foreign investment, development highlights new lifestyle choices available to the new Khmer middle class. The billboards photographed for this exhibition explore this new reality by showing the proposed architectural background of the city and how the new elite of Cambodian society fit within this.
Geographically, the billboards appear all over the city. The spread of these projects suggests planning on a citywide scale, as opposed to solely concentrating on the areas around the river or city centre - Camko City and Grand Phnom Penh International city, for example, are located north of the CBD, outside of the traditional boundaries delineated by a tourist map of the city. Half-a-dozen satellite cities are destined for remote areas or ‘new’ areas. These ventures are often fully self-contained, i.e. a ‘city-within-a-city’, comprising accommodation, schools, libraries, supermarkets, security and health centres.
The majority of the projects in this exhibition were initiated during the real estate boom. The physical construction of these buildings is now heavily and necessarily dependent on a number of factors, not least the contemporary economic climate. Diamond Island City, for instance, is looking to adjust investment to $800 million from $1.2 billion and to reduce the number of planned units. Similarly Gold Tower 42 has experienced a fall of 25% in sales since December 2008, which is a strong indicator of a drop in confidence in the real estate market. The journey from drawing board to billboard to completion, is often much longer than anticipated due to economic flux, a fact highlighted by the absence of a completion date on most of the displays.
Such billboards sell a vision. This can be seen as a marketing tool rather than an informative platform. For instance, certain realities of the city are eliminated or forgotten. Motodrivers are noticeably absent from the street corners, as are the piles of rubbish awaiting collection. Gated residential areas, such as L’Artisan, present an ideal lifestyle – that of community and family structure, already central tenets of Cambodian life. Children explore the gardens within safe perimeters, whilst couples take a stroll hand in hand or play evening badminton.
The ‘cut-and-paste’ people that exist in the 3D graphic designs of these posters are not specifically Cambodian though. Instead, they are a symbolic representation of the Asian dream – modern, wealthy and smiling. The focus changes slightly within the commerce-based projects like shopping malls. Here tourists feature more prominently, seeking to entice multinational franchises and large companies to invest in shop units.
One can expect a multi-levelled debate to remain a constant as the city moves into the future: architects will contest the traditional against contemporary, local residents will fight for their land rights, foreign investment will come and go. As the Lexus gains a suitable backdrop, the traffic will continue to swarm as new road regulations are tried and tested. As Our City develops, it will become increasingly important to be aware of the changes and actively participate in the urban debate.
Pillar Kong Vollak
The pillar is the most important element in all architectural constructions. This work of art has been created to reflect the current boom in architectural constructions in Phnom Penh as well as all over the world.
Those modern architectural constructions have also inspired me to work in this field. I am of the opinion that Phnom Penh should be a location for the most modern architectural constructions because the world has already had such modern constructions.
I think this work is very important for me because of its contribution of ideas for the development of Phnom Penh, and in the mean time, leads visitors to the thoughts of:
- After the city has so many skyscrapers, how will it impact, for example, the environment and the traffic and so on?
- And what are the good benefits that these constructions provide, for example, jobs for people, foreigners seeing the country as having stability and peace in all sectors, etc.?
I have, for this work, chosen a new working style by combining many small pictures to create an installation when put together becomes a stand-alone construction. Some of the small pictures have been drawn using pencils, charcoal and Chinese ink. The over three-meter tall ‘installation’ is assembled using approximately 128 small pictures and is displayed in the center of the room to be viewed from all sides.